Getting rid of garden weeds | Living the Country Life

Getting rid of garden weeds

A little cleanup now will go a long way come spring

My gardens are shabby by this time of year. I’m pretty good with weeding till about August, then give up. This year I'm making an effort to keep going, because fall is the time when perennial weeds explode in root growth and seed production. For example, one Canada thistle will produce dozens of new root shoots the next year, and each one is capable of producing a new plant.  

Mike Moechnig is an extension weed specialist at South Dakota State University. He says there are two approaches for controlling weeds in the garden: chemical and non-chemical.

"For a chemical approach, one thing people may want to consider is waiting until after one of the first light frosts, and then applying a herbicide that includes glyphosate, such as Roundup. That herbicide will move into the weed roots, and kill those shoot buds that are lingering on those roots," says Moechnig. "And if you do that in the fall, don't till your garden in the fall. Primarily that's to keep all those remaining weed seeds on the soil surface so they can be eaten by insects and small animals."

A non-chemical approach to weed control does include tillage.
"As soon as the harvesting is done, till the garden if you can, wait for those perennial shoots to come back up again, and then till again. The trick is you want to do repeated tillage, maybe every 2-or-3-weeks to get those perennial weed roots up to the soil surface where they can dry out and desiccate," says Moechnig. "And that will help kill some of those roots so they're not producing shoots the following year."

Don't forget to remove the weed clippings from the garden. Moechnig says you can toss them on the compost pile, as long as they aren't producing seeds. Bag any seed heads you see in the garden before they fall to the ground.

Managing weeds all year long is important to prevent them from becoming uncontrollable

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